"The fear is setting in again," a friend of mine said on the phone today. I could feel my heart beating like a drum when he said it. What he meant was that people are already becoming afraid of speaking out in the new, polarized Europe where violence seems once again to be a viable political tool. The populist parties of western Europe insist that they do not use such methods, but doesn't beating someone who didn't seem 'Swedish' over the head with a metal pipe seem like violence to you? Senior members of our very own Sweden Democrat Party were caught on video doing just that. The shooting of innocent visitors outside the Jewish museum in Brussels this Sunday seemed like another extension of the Medusa, whose tentacles lash out furiously at whoever or whatever looks too different or associates itself with difference.
As the clock ticked on, it struck me that what my friend said could just as well be a description of the perpetrators. After all, behind every threat and murderous act against another group for no other reason than who they are, is a wild fear of the other. Behind this is an even wilder fear of inferiority. These are connected by the horror that the other may be better than you and therefore must be eliminated or at the very least brought to heel. If there is something that I have learned through my years of researching National Socialism it is that the psychology of fear is not only a phenomenon of the victims. It is also most integral to the psychology of the perpetrator.
Until we understand our human fears better - are prepared to make ourselves vulnerable by putting words to them and discussing them - we will always be in danger of turning upon another for no reason except that we are ourselves afraid. Thank you, friend, for ringing me this morning with this thought which seems a great deal less frightening this evening.